The Montreal Canadiens are a team with superstar power, as P.K. Subban and Carey Price are considered among the best in the league at their respective positions, while Max Pacioretty is considered to be one of the best power forwards in the game.
Though he hasn’t been getting the attention that he deserves, Brendan Gallagher should be garnering attention as one of the best wings in the NHL.
Since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL Draft, Gallagher has played three seasons in the NHL, scoring 116 points in 207 NHL games. During the 2014-2015 season, the 23-year-old put up 47 points in 82 games, and though he played on Montreal’s second line for a good portion of the year, 47 points is still good enough to be considered “first-line” in today’s NHL.
It’s not his point production that really impresses, however (we’ll circle back around to that later, though). It’s his shot attempt numbers (both for and against) that show just how valuable Gallagher is for the Canadiens, and what his potential ceiling is.
During the 2014-2015 season, the Canadiens were a much better possession team with Gallagher on the ice than they were with him off of it. His score adjusted SAT% of 53.5% was much better than the dismal 46.5% that the team managed with him off of the ice, and every skater on the team’s roster that played at least 200 minutes with Gallagher saw at least a 3.7% increase in their possession rating.
As we can see from the diagram below (courtesy of hockeyviz.com), most of that came from an incredible increase in shot attempts for, as Gallagher clearly helping his teammates offensively.
His relative SAT% of 7.0% is eighth among forwards who played at least 750 minutes at 5-on-5 last season, and it’s not as though the Edmonton native was sheltered; when looking at dCorsi (which is designed to account for team effects, usage, and several other variables), we can see the Gallagher massively over-performed the second-line minutes he was given in Montreal.
His dCorsi impact of 136.86 was 26th in the NHL last season, meaning that Gallagher easily could have handled a first line role, and likely would have provided the same dominance that he did in his second line role.
Coming back around to his production, his HERO chart shows us that over the past couple of seasons, he hasn’t slacked off in that department.
Despite getting second-line minutes, Gallagher’s goals-per-60 minutes and primary points-per-60 minutes are clearly that of a first liner. We can also see that his effect on shot attempts for has literally been the best in the league from 2012-2015, and that his overall effect on SAT% has been elite.
The weakest part of the chart for Gallagher is his goals against per 60, but we know that skaters in the NHL have little to no effect over save percentage (that linked piece talks about defenseman, but assuming a forward could have an effect over SV% when a defenseman can’t makes no sense, especially when defenseman are so much more involved in defensive play), essentially making that one weak spot a moot point.
We haven’t even looked at Gallagher’s on-ice shot location, either. Breaking down his Hextally chart (from war-on-ice.com) gives us a pretty clear view of where the Canadiens get shot attempts while Gallagher is on the ice.
Seeing as we’re looking at shot rate for Gallagher, red is better, as it means more shot attempts for.
That’s a whole lot of red, and it’s especially dark directly in front of the net, an area that Gallagher has a reputation of loving.
Some of the coolest new data available in the blogosphere is passing stats data, which comes via from the Passing Stats Project, headed by Ryan Stimson. By tracking passes that lead to shot attempts, we’re able to see just how much a player contributes to his team’s offense while he’s on the ice. This percentage, called CC% (Corsi contribution percentage, or shot attempts contribution percentage) shows how much a player is driving offensive play, either by generating shot attempts themselves, or with their passes.
Gallagher’s CC% is 52.0%, good enough for 31st in the entire league. Other players who drive offensive shot attempts at a lower percentage than him include Ryan Johansen, Matt Duchene and Tyler Seguin.
Most of that impressive total comes from Gallagher’s individual shot attempts numbers, as the young winger is eighth in individual shot attempts, and 21st in individual scoring chances (both totals-per-60 minutes, and out of skaters with at least 750 minutes at even strength).
For someone who has been used as a second line forward for most of his career, those are some pretty impressive totals. Include the fact that Gallagher is 23-year-old, and most likely about to enter his prime, and it’s possible that these numbers could get even better.
What’s a reasonable expectation for Gallagher in 2015-2016?
It’s likely that he could hit 30 goals if given tons of ice time, though the presence of Pacioretty in Montreal’s lineup could prevent Gallagher from getting that ice time. It’s not just that Pacioretty will force Gallagher onto the second line; it makes sense from a coaching standpoint, as putting the team’s top players on one line makes it easier for the opposition, from a matchup standpoint.
The two also play (slightly) conflicting styles of hockey, with the former preferring to use his size, speed, and shot to score on the rush…
And the latter preferring to fight his way to the front of the net for tips, deflections, and rebounds, while picking up the occasional goal by utilizing a slapshot while in space.
Based off of Gallagher’s impressive underlying statistics and current shot attempt numbers, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him reach 30 goals, especially since he reached 24 last season. His assist numbers aren’t going to “wow” anyone, but based on his scoring abilities, they won’t really need to in order for the 5’9 forward to be an important part of a Canadiens lineup that will be looking to make a Stanley Cup run.
At the age of 23, Brendan Gallagher has already established himself as a first line NHL winger. He’s entering his scoring prime, and if all the chips fall in the right places, could be looking at a 30-goal campaign in 2015-2016. That type of production would certainly elevate him to that coveted status of “elite”, but there’s a strong case to be made that he’s been there for a while.
(SAT% and scoring chance numbers courtesy of war-on-ice.com. WOWY numbers courtesy of stats.hockeyanalysis.com and puckalytics.com.)